No country for poor – Scroll’s “Ear To The Ground” Project

Scroll has started a new project Ear to the Ground where they plan to study six states, including Mizoram, Odisha, Pujab, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Over the last 13 months they have covered 3 states. Major conclusions of the study:

  • Each of the three states are seeing a concentration of political control
  • There has been a weakening of democratic checks and balances
  • The states are also failing in education and healthcare too
  • States are forgo a lot of revenue in the form of corruption eg: giving mining licenses for almost free
  • This is accompanied by non-productive populist schemes
  • As a result people are turning to costly private players for basic services like health education
  • The people are responding in complex ways. For example, when Mizoram CM’s brother resigned on charges of corruption, he was re-elected. This is because the people wanted a powerful MLA and probable next CM from their constituency.

The most appalling finding in the study is the Halka system in Punjab. Halka in-charges are Akali dal candidates who have lost assembly elections. According to the article these Halka in-charges have more power than actual MLA’s in their constituencies. This is a direct undermining of democracy. Another interesting finding in the study..

“There is a rise in the number of religious babas, and in the number of people flocking to them. Many of these newfound babas have links to politicians – who eye their followers as a vote bank – and people appeared to be turning to them to get their work done in times of an indifferent administration.

There is an intensification of religious, caste and ethnic identity. That again seems to link back to the elite captures we described earlier. As the quantum of public goods – welfare spends, jobs – shrinks, people start looking for groups that can increase their bargaining power. That can be caste, clan or religion. This shows up in the recent protests by the Jats in Haryana, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, what have you.”

Read the entire article here.

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Author: Bobbur Abhilash

I am a fourth year Doctoral student in the Finance and Control Department at IIM Calcutta.

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